Over in the US, dealers seem to be prone to following James Cuno in his NYT response in suggesting that in order to "save them" from the brown-skinned folk in the unruly colonies, a more enlightened elite of "western antiquarians" should buy looted artefacts. Typical of such an attitude is Dealer Dave ("Classical Coins"), writing on the IAPN and PNG sponsored blogger's "Cultural Property Observer":
Cola's well-reasoned and well-informed comments paint a bleak picture indeed for Western antiquarians interested in ancient civilizations located not only in modern Iraq, but also in other lands whose present-day inhabitants follow Islam, and even in some lands whose inhabitants are not Islamic. The concept that "object veneration" associated with appreciation and study of the past is regarded by many who live there as a form of idolatry, to be met with hostility or at best with indifference, is appalling. But it is probably also entirely true. As a long-time "object venerator" to whom mankind's historical and cultural heritage is of very great importance, I perceive that this analytic look at the truth gives the lie to the foundations of the 1970 UNESCO Convention.
and of course, from his point of view, to make as much money as they can by selling them to collectors and museums and passing the money to the suppliers of these artefacts.
Those concerned about the "cultural heritage" of Iraq and other "source states" do not appear to be the many who live there, but instead the few, most of whom do not - antiquarians such as myself, archaeologists, and local elites who share little if anything with the Egyptian fellahin and their counterparts in other lands. That presents a trenchant question: ifthe peoples of these lands are indifferent and even hostile to their "cultural heritage," what is the point in reserving it for them to ignore, or to destroy? Would it not be far more appropriate and beneficial to mankind to allow them to disseminate it to others who would appreciate and treasure it?
The URL of Barford's blog post is a classic example of slimy innuendo (and outright untruth) deceptively and knowingly presented in a manner that could hardly be more offensive or more misleading. I have made it abundantly clear that I not only do not "support ISIL," I oppose those barbaric jihadist thugs as strongly as I know how to do.
I did not say (and do not propose) that anyone should buy looted artifacts. I do not condone that, never have, and never will. I asked whether it would not be more appropriate to allow inhabitants of lands where "cultural heritage" is not valued by the mass of the people to disseminate artifacts to others who would appreciate and treasure them. There are licit ways to arrange this without "looting" and smuggling.
Finally I am getting more than a little tired of seeing snide, derogatory language such as "and of course, from his point of view, to make as much money as they can by selling them to collectors and museums and passing the money to the suppliers of these artefacts."
It has been alleged by some that Mr. Barford is either a Communist or Communist sympathizer. I have consistently rebuked such assertions, pointing out that his political affiliation is not publicly known. I will however say here that if Mr. Barford were a Communist, he could hardly write more offensively and more disdainfully regarding the sale of artifacts to collectors, which is the normal and customary process in most of the world, and has been so since long before Mr. Barford, or even archaeology itself, were conceived.
No one awards me an institutional grant or governmental salary to be a professional numismatist supplying ancient coins to collectors. I do not "feed at the public trough" as did Mr. Barford in those long ago days when he was actually (and briefly) employed as an archaeologist, and as do others who now join him in condemning collecting and trading in antiquities, including those as inoffensive as ancient coins.
I have had to finance my business (supplying ancient coins to collectors) out of my own private resources, and it represents a huge investment. I don't earn as much (as a professional numismatist) as does a primary school teacher. There are no benefits or retirement plan. This is definitely a labor of love, and no one in his right mind would pursue it with profit being the primary motive.
Recently my esteemed friend Wayne Sayles deleted everything relating to "cultural property" from his own blog because he became utterly disgusted with seeing disgraceful insinuations and outright lies from such sources. The world is the poorer for the loss of his sagacious observations.
This raises a trenchant question: How should an honest, ethical, law-abiding antiquarian deal with uncalled-for defamation of character and personal attacks from rabid anticollecting zealots? How can one best continue to candidly present pro-collecting views when assailed in an offensive, dishonorable manner?
Suggestions from friends and supporters (as comments) are welcomed.